Collecting vintage or antique jewelry can be a very fulfilling hobby. Even when you don’t plan on selling your pieces, there is still a sense of fascination and nostalgia for possessing vintage items.
People collect vintage jewelry for various reasons. Their pieces could have sentimental value, exciting styles, or historical interest. Whatever reason you may have for collecting, identifying each piece’s value and caring for them is essential.
Read below to learn more about appraising vintage jewelry and how to take care of your pieces once you have them.
However, just because a piece of jewelry has sentimental or aesthetic value does not mean it’s worth a lot financially.
Working with an expert appraiser is always best, especially if you’ve just started collecting vintage pieces. Still, it’s best to know basic guidelines before you get your jewelry appraised. Here are some ways to determine the value of your vintage pieces.
The material is a significant factor that can affect the value of your jewelry.
For example, jewelry made from precious metals like silver or gold is usually worth more than stainless steel. The same applies to precious stones. A diamond ring would be drastically more valuable than one set with a rhinestone.
One way to identify the material used for the jewelry is through its hallmark. The hallmark can include the maker’s name or initials and a code corresponding to the material used. For example, 925 indicates sterling silver, 750 indicates 18-carat gold, 916 means 22-carat gold, etc. Hallmarks also allow governments to regulate the jewelry trade.
There are also physical ways to test the material of a piece of jewelry. These methods can be more reliable, especially since hallmarks can be faked. Testing for real gold includes using a magnet (gold is non-magnetic) and scratching it on a ceramic plate.
Another way to determine your jewelry’s value is by looking at the style. Some jewelry brands and designers often have signature styles that reflect each piece of jewelry’s craftsmanship. Different eras often had particular styles in vogue.
Brushing up on your knowledge of jewelry history would be helpful in this step. Even if the designer didn’t leave a hallmark, you might still have a good chance of identifying the time it was made.
For example, jewelry styles in the Victorian era went through a couple of trends. Early Victorian pieces usually had romantic and floral motifs, which transitioned to black mourning jewelry after Prince Albert’s death. Cameos and diamonds as everyday jewelry were also very popular during this period.
Some pieces can be trickier to appraise than others. Vintage jewelry can be particularly challenging, especially for beginners. One needs significant experience and a trained eye to accurately identify a piece’s value.
For this reason, consulting a professional jewelry appraiser would be the best option. Finding the right one can be challenging since there are no licensing requirements for jewelry appraisal. Some people can claim to be jewelry appraisers even though they may not have the proper tools for your particular pieces.
However, there are industry groups you can look to and consult to find appraisers in your area. These organizations include the following:
- Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA)
- Appraisers Association of America
- Appraisers International Society (AIS)
- International Society of Appraisers
- National Association of Jewelry Appraisers
Talk to your appraiser and ask about their experience and expertise. While many appraisers share skill sets, working with someone specializing in antiques or vintage pieces is best.
Whether you have only a few vintage jewelry pieces or an extensive collection, taking good care of your jewelry is essential. Proper maintenance and upkeep ensure that your pieces stay in good condition and last longer.
Vintage jewelry, in particular, requires more care. Even when a piece looks like it’s in good condition, its age might still present some issues that need attention. Furthermore, you can purchase jewelry insurance to protect your more valuable pieces.
Here’s how to care for your vintage jewelry to help your pieces look good and last longer.
The best way to clean your jewelry will depend on its material and condition. The safest way would be to wash your jewelry occasionally with mild soap and water. This principle particularly applies to more fragile pieces that don’t get much wear.
You can also invest in jewelry cleaners for more hardy pieces or stubborn stains. Check the ingredients and ensure no harsh chemicals like ammonia are present that might corrode your jewelry. To be safe, use only the recommended amount for cleaning or dilute any harsh cleaners.
After cleaning your pieces, wipe them with a soft cloth to remove any moisture and allow them to dry completely before storage.
Storage is another vital part of caring for your vintage jewelry. Proper storage keeps your pieces safe and protects them from unnecessary damage.
Keep your pieces in a cool, dry place like a jewelry box. Avoid exposing them to heat and moisture, which can damage your pieces.
If you have the space, keep each piece in separate compartments or sections. This practice helps minimize friction between them and prevents tangling, especially for necklaces. After cleaning, you can also use a polishing cloth to add shine to your jewelry.
Jewelry is made for wearing — you can wear yours to complete any look. However, you must also be mindful of where you wear your pieces, especially the more fragile ones.
Avoid wearing your pieces when doing labor-intensive tasks like rock climbing, hiking, or lifting heavy objects. The impact could bend or damage your pieces. Taking off rings and bracelets when dealing with messy tasks like baking and gardening is also advisable.
Knowing the value of your vintage jewelry pieces and adequately handling them is crucial for keeping a collection. Remember the above tips to become a more knowledgeable and responsible collector and hobbyist.